Saturday, March 5, 2011

But I like the knees I have now!

The more times I see this ad, the more concerned I become about the fact that some ad men decided that it would be worth spending lots of money creating it. I was not aware that there was some epidemic of knee failure going on which would in the very near future create the need for hundreds of thousands of people to suddenly begin comparison shopping for surgeons and mechanical parts to replace the ones G-d gave us.

At first, I just smirked and thought "gee, what a waste of money. For the few people out there who actually need this surgery, there are plenty of doctors to direct them to the proper specialists. Seriously- is this information they really need from a late-night tv ad?"

Then I started thinking- maybe these guys know something we don't. Maybe years of muscle atrophy, brought on by incessant sitting and web surfing, conditioned by the gradual elimination of recess and physical exercise in school, has rendered our knees more susceptible than ever before to early failure. Perhaps as we enter our third decade of an obesity epidemic, the good people at Smith & Nephew (what the hell?) have figured out that our knees just weren't built to sustain exaggerated stress levels over long periods of time. Maybe knee replacement surgery will become the braces of the older set- something you expect to receive as a kind of Rite of Passage, as long as you can afford it. Kind of a scary thought, no?

My dad had hip replacement surgery a few years ago. According to the college of Orthopedics, approximately 193,000 such surgeries are performed every year. Are knee replacement surgeries going to become just as common in the near future? Smith and Nephew seem to be banking on it.

Anyone else find it more than a little disturbing that as Americans become less active, hip and knee replacement surgery seems to be on the rise? I don't buy the "we need new knee surgery techniques because we are so active" theme of these ads- because it's just not true. Is it that people who ARE active these days are more likely to be recovering couch potatos who have been sedentary for years and likely to overdo it and hurt themselves?

So many questions. Which I guess kind of makes this an intriguing ad, darn it. Scary, though.


  1. Advertisers figured out long ago that if they identify a disease or syndrome and then incessantly pitch a cure, people will become convinced that they have the affliction and buy that remedy.

    The first step is to come up with symptoms no one previously worried about needing to see a doctor for -- dry mouth, dry eyes, something like that.

    The second step is to give it a name and an abbreviation. Three letters is best, but two will do -- RA, ED, RLS, PAD, GRD.

    The third step is to let "sufferers" know "you are not alone" AND subliminally communicate that doctors don't take "your condition" seriously.

    Finally, you can pitch your pill, replacement joint, "treatment center".

    It's a tried and true formula. Ask Cancer Treatment Centers of America, or the makers of Cialis.

  2. I had a knee-replacement two years ago at age 39. There are many reasons for any kind of joint-replacement but in my case it was because of repetitive injuries to the opposite knee over the course of twenty years (eight injuries total- the eighth being on March 3, 2006) caused the knee to degenerate to bone-on-bone.

    It was from that injury I became sedentary and put on weight. Coupled with an uncaring doctor who refused to help me beyond saying, "Your knees wouldn't hurt if you lost weight" despite the evidence proving my weight came on after the knees started hurting, I ended up having the knee replaced.

    Hampered by an undiagnosed (by the same doctor, of course) problem with fibromyalgia, my recovery has taken twice as long as it should have. And now, at 41, I'm dragging myself around like one of your much-loved couch potatoes. All my hard work down the tubes and now I'm starting as if I was never that person before that last knee injury. (the fibro has since been diagnosed and is being treated- and NOT with one of those drugs advertised on TV!)

    However, I don't recall seeing an ad for replacement knees till sometime after my surgery (which was two years ago this month). And this Smith & Nephew brand is the only one I've been seeing. My cyborg knee is a Biomet.

    Maybe this company is trying to cash in on the fact that older people- the ones who are the "target audience"- tend to believe what they see on TV or if they hear it repeated enough, they'll ask for it by name at the doctor's office.

    How did I "choose" my knee? I didn't. My surgeon said, "This is your problem, this is what needs to be done to fix it, this is the type of surgery I've done X-hundreds of times, and I think this one would be beneficial to your needs." and he gave me information to check things out on my own.

    And here I am. A cyborg sapien. In about two weeks, I'll have an updated picture, but till then, this is what mine looks like- Linky-link to photo

    What got me is that the pamphlet of information told me that I could "play golf" and "garden" after having my knee replaced. I haven't had the urge to do any of those things. I wonder if I should sue for false advertising? I bet you have a commercial somewhere for a lawyer that would take that case!

  3. FirstRepublic- I agree, after years of "Ask your Doctor about..." ads, these commercials seem aimed entirely at convincing the viewer he's got a problem that can be resolved with an expensive pill. I guess major surgery and new parts is just the next step.

    Pahz- if a doctor told me that I'd be playing golf if I had a surgery, I think I'd skip it, because I think golf is the most inane waste of time out there :>). And I would not trust a doctor who responded to "I want to try this pill/ have this surgery" by nodding and writing out a prescription or making the appointment with a specialist. What I WANT from my doctor is for HIM to tell ME what is wrong and what I need to fix it, not the other way around. If I'm going to be suggesting drugs and surgeries, how is the doctor earning his $20 co-pay?

  4. Oh, and Pahz- my doctor 6 years ago told me that my back wouldn't hurt all the time if I lost weight. So I did- later, we discovered that I had arthritis, and my back would have hurt if I weighed nothing. 30 years ago, another doctor gave my grandfather a back brace to help him deal with his chronic pain- turned out, he was in the early stages of cancer of the spine. It seems that every doctor out there is either too quick to diagnose, or too slow.

  5. That lousy doctor I had was possibly the worst I ever encountered. He said he had tested me for things like rheumatoid arthritis, but he didn't. He just gave me the results to four-year-old RA test and said it was negative. (well, it was, four years ago).

    When I finally got the referral letter I needed to see the surgeon (otherwise, our insurance wouldn't pay for it- which, by the way, two years later, we're still paying off our cost-share), I didn't think I'd need a total replacement. I thought I'd need an arthroscopic or even just cortisone shots. But this doctor just took so long to get me that referral without helping me. Had he given me the referral earlier, I might have gotten a few more years out of my human knee before it was too far gone. The bones had been rubbing on each other long enough to create flat spots. My athletic teen years, a family history of arthritis and then the 20 years of compensating for the other knee's injuries created the perfect storm that gave me the knees of someone in their sixties or seventies.

    Interestingly enough, I just did a video for a website about joint-replacements, telling my story (they asked for people to send in their story). I explain the whole thing as quickly as possible and the story is still ten and a half minutes long (I have it uploaded on my Facebook).

    If I ever see that doctor around the VA hospital, I'm going to show him how much I improved after I got the knee replaced and how much healthier I am now that the fibro is being treated (again, not with a drug that's advertised on TV!). I'd like to kick him in the shin or take out his knee with a bat, but I'm a bigger person than that.